Most Mexicans back president's U.S. visit but dislike Trump, poll shows

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to address a press briefing on the U.S. economy and new U.S. employment and unemployment numbers in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Most Mexicans support their president’s planned visit to his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump next week, though they continue to regard the American leader in a distinctly negative light, an opinion poll showed on Thursday.

The June 26-27 phone survey of 410 respondents across the country by newspaper El Financiero showed 59% agreed with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s plan to visit Trump in Washington on July 8-9. Some 35% took the opposite view.

Lopez Obrador pitched the visit to mark the start of a new trade deal, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), and has described it as a matter of economic necessity.

The survey showed 70% of Mexicans saw Trump in a negative light. Still, that was a marked improvement from January, when 86% of Mexicans felt that way, it showed.

Trump has been held in low regard south of the U.S. border since he described Mexican migrants as rapists and drug runners during his 2015-16 presidential election campaign and vowed to make Mexico pay for his planned border wall.

Lopez Obrador has tried to avoid conflict with Trump, and stresses that the two have a friendly relationship. The poll showed that the image of the United States in Mexico has improved sharply since Lopez Obrador took power 19 months ago.

In February 2019, 29% of Mexicans saw the United States in a positive light. By last month, the figure had jumped to 63%.

Critics of both men have expressed concern that Lopez Obrador’s visit could help Trump shore up support among Hispanic voters as the Republican U.S. president gears up November’s election.

After their meeting was announced on Wednesday, a letter sent to Trump by over a dozen U.S. Democrats in Congress called the encounter a “blatant attempt to politicize the important U.S.-Mexico relationship along partisan lines.”

Reporting by Dave Graham; editing by Jonathan Oatis